Earlier last month I found myself sitting outside on a Friday afternoon on Randolph Street at Maude’s Liquor Bar, the latest hot spot from Brendan Sodikoff (of Gilt Bar fame) in Chicago. Styled as a noveau French Bistro, the restaurant offers as a special one of the most unique Cassoulet dishes I’ve ever had anywhere, Paris included. August isn’t exactly Cassoulet season, but this dish consists of full pieces of garlic sausage, marrow, duck confit legs, huge chunks of carrots, and cooks the pork belly across the bottom of the massive entree. It is a dish meant to be shared or taken as leftovers, and even at its $34 price point, it stands as a relative bargain for the sheer quantity of food combined with its intense and authentic flavors. This is very true to the French style, and a gut buster to boot. I even made a return trip later last month and ordered it again after a huge score at the Arlington Million along with another dedicated foodie and close friend.

When making the decision to embark on such an endeavor, a French wine is mandatory, and Maude’s offers no shortage of these. Rhone enthusiasts far and wide are aware of the success of the 2010 vintage (read my full report from my tasting trip to this region last spring here). I spotted a particular Cotes du Rhone that I had yet to taste on the menu, and was pleased with the pairing choice. More than anything, I was reminded how remarkably priced these table wines can be, especially in landmark vintages, and how short lived they are. There will be a day, far sooner than I would like, where you won’t ever see a 2010 Cotes du Rhone on a menu ever again. Time is of the essence, so saavy wine enthusiasts should be keen to notice these wines while they last.


DOMAINE CRISTIA COTES DU RHONE 2010, 90 Points, $20, 1250 Cases Produced- Ripe and appealing on the nose, with fragrant crushed berry fruit and floral notes. This shows polished cherry, raspberry, boysenberry and red licorice flavors above layers of wet slate and spice. Long, gripping finish.

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